While certainly many fishermen and women come from a long line of fishing, some find their fishing mentors from outside the family. For his 10th birthday, Josiah Rhys was taken out lobstering with local fisherman, Leroy Weed Sr. That first glimpse of commercial fishing had a lasting impression, and from that moment on, Josiah had his heart set on being a commercial fisherman. Josiah would go out with Dick Kent Jr. (featured in our previous ‘Fisherman Friday’ blog), as well as with his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Lane. By age 11, Josiah purchased his student license and would fish ‘double shifts,’ first with a captain on their boat, then on his own boat in the afternoon/evening.
Commercial fishing consists of so much more than the art of fishing, which is where Josiah has some serious familial support. Known locally as ‘Master Dave,’ Josiah’s father, David Rhys, is quite the machinist/mechanic over at Billings Diesel and Marine. Over the years, the two have rebuilt numerous boats and engines, “I basically owe my success as a fisherman to my dad” Josiah reflected. The two of them would go lobstering recreationally together, and once Josiah obtained his student license, David would join him and they’d both go out for a second shift of work to haul Josiah’s gear.
Beginning with F/V: Happy Crab, a 14’ skiff with a 6hp Johnson outboard, Josiah then moved into F/V: Red Furry, a 17’ skiff with a 50hp outboard. While at the shipyard one day, Josiah spotted an old 34’ wooden boat sitting quite close to the burn pile. Apparently, it was in line to burn, but hadn’t gotten sparked up yet. Instead, Josiah paid $1 and bought the retired F/V: Holly Beth, originally built in the 70s, and saved her from flames. David and Josiah worked relentlessly on this wooden boat, from steaming new ribs, to rebuilding hydraulic motors, basically every piece of this boat needing going over. Once ready, Josiah decided on the appropriate name F/V: Determination. Next came F/V: Predator, a 32’ Mitchel Cove, which needed less TLC, but was loved nonetheless!
All during this time, Josiah continued to go as sternman or third man for various captains, David Heanssler and Joel Bilings to name a couple. From age 11 through age 20, Josiah chose to work this ‘double shift,’ going out before dawn, coming in at afternoon, going out on his own boat, and fishing until sundown. “It kept me out of a lot of trouble.” Josiah admitted! Eventually, Josiah made the choice to fish his own gear fulltime. These days, Josiah can be seen on F/V: Miss Brooke. Named after his wife, this vessel is a 42’ Dixon, with Jason Larrabee on the stern for his second year onboard.
Josiah loves being his own boss, and enjoys seeing the weather change. Josiah especially loves fishing in rough weather, “I’ve got a little bit of crazy in my blood.” Years spent on the stern, fishing off-shore with Joel Billings on, F/V: My Diva may have influenced this joy. Fishing in rough weather gets a little wild from time to time, and while F/V: Miss Brooke is equipped with two spray shields, Josiah finds that the challenge of rough weather, and getting wet is part of the fun. “You really earn what you make out there” said Josiah, “you have to work hard, and work smart.” When not fishing off-shore, Josiah and crew can be seen fishing the East Bay, where relatives from his father’s side fished generations ago.
While out on the water, there is still room for some fun. Josiah and fellow fisherman, Jeff Thompson, have a friendly competition to see who spots the first floating tennis ball of the season, “you wouldn’t expect to ever see one, but every year, eventually someone does.” Another moment of hilarity happened while out during some fairly rough weather: the life raft got thrown loose and blew itself up and overboard. After managing to get it onboard and under control, the crew had a good laugh about it. Light-hearted moments like this, while out at sea, and the “thrill of the chase” is what motivates Josiah to fish as hard as possible. When asked about Josiah as a fisherman, Dick Kent Jr. quoted Peter Porter with, “Josiah has two speeds, ‘stop’ and ‘wide open.’” This sentiment is easily recognized by the years spent fishing ‘double shifts,’ and Josiah’s drive to fish year-round, even through rough weather. Beyond tennis balls and crazy weather, Josiah loves seeing basking sharks and sunfish while out on the water, “It’s beautiful out there” he said. He’s also hoping to find a bright, all-blue lobster some season soon! He really loves working on the water. If he was ever unable to go fishing for any reason, “I’d have to find a job out on the water doing something else” Josiah said.
Josiah and his wife, Brooke, enjoy eating lobster at home from time to time, in classic preparation—steamed, served with butter. Their daughter Natallie, who is 7 months old, even enjoys wearing a lobster outfit! Married for just over three years, Brooke is incredibly proud of her husband and involves herself in the local fishing community. She is also a member of Island Fishermen’s Wives Association. Overall, Josiah is thankful to his wife, Brooke, and parents, David and Valerie, for letting him work as hard as he wants.
When asked about the lobstering industry overall, Josiah responded, “it is an incredible industry to support,” when you choose to buy Maine lobster from a trustworthy source, “you are supporting thousands of independently employed, hardworking fishermen and women.” We couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Josiah, and your family, for all the hard work, and beautiful Maine lobsters. When you buy seafood from Greenhead Lobster, you know that you are supporting our local fishing community.